Labour has a tight window of opportunity to trigger a no-confidence motion in the government, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer warned Jeremy Corbyn.
HuffPost UK has learned Starmer used a meeting of Corbyn’s top team on Tuesday to issue the leadership with the stark message they may only have until Christmas to make their move against Theresa May.
Several shadow cabinet sources confirmed the story after Jenny Chapman, shadow Brexit minister, was forced to backtrack on her threat in an LBC radio interview that her party’s would bid to remove the prime minister from power “will probably come before Santa does”.
Minutes later Chapman took to Twitter to say she had got “carried away” and that Labour would bring forward the motion “at the best opportunity”.
It comes as Corbyn faces a chorus of criticism from SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru for failing to seize on May’s humiliating climbdown over her Brexit deal vote, with Corbyn simply saying he would “do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time”.
Senior Labour figures are weighing up the prospect of tabling the vote but fear they will not win and would blow their chance of ushering in a general election.
A meeting between Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, and Corbyn where they were due to discuss the motion has been delayed.
May had looked more isolated than ever when she was forced to pull a vote on her Brexit deal she had repeatedly insisted would happen on Tuesday.
Speculation had reached fever pitch on Tuesday night that the threshold of 48 letters from Tory MPs calling for a vote of no-confidence in May’s leadership had been hit.
Reports that Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the all-powerful 1922 committee of backbench MPs, was preparing to speak to May after PMQs on Wednesday have not yet been confirmed.
Meanwhile, Number 10 dismissed suggestions that the House of Commons could break early in a bid to quell plotting and help May avoid facing a threat to her crown.
The prime minister had jetted out to Brussels on Monday in a last-ditch attempt to win concessions to her Brexit deal ahead of an EU summit later this week.
May is due to update the House of Commons with another statement on Monday.